As a big supporter of Merlin’s beard, I would like to say that a beardless Merlin is equally cool and if you’ve watched Colin Morgan in this role, I am sure you would agree with me. When Samira told me she planned to write Legendborn fanfiction, I did some quick googling. Legendborn is, in her own words, “an adaptation of the Arthurian Legend; a world of secret societies interwoven with elements from African culture” and “Merlin” in this story is a title, not a person. In Legendborn, Sel is a Merlin so obviously, despite not knowing much else about him, I assume he is pretty cool (I could be wrong, I really need to read this book). On a serious note, this is a Merlin, who in this fanfiction makes a Twilight reference, so ten points to Hufflepuff! (I’m mixing way too many fandoms here).
Samira writes this Legendborn fanfiction with the voice of a Young Adult Fantasy author who knows what she is doing. This is both a skill and a craft, a holy grail that many would fight battles for. She proves that fanfiction can be written as professionally as the YA fantasy novels that are so popular and that both are more valid than people give them credit for. She balances dialogue and description while showing you a story you want to know more about. I have never read Legendborn but this story reminds me why I love YA fantasy – it’s because the words are beautiful, the story is strong and the magic is real.– The Fanfiction Finder
Bree woke up with blood on her lips.
The bed under her was hard, her back hurt, she wasn’t sure if it was a result of sleeping in the wooden bed for a long time or being inflicted on by someone. Or something. Her tongue had gone numb. The trees outside her window were silent and she could only hear her ragged breaths and insects ticking about the room.
One week into Early College at Carolina, Bree had already found herself lost and bruised in a shady room in the middle of a forest, already failing in a place her mom didn’t want her to go and yet somehow not regretting her decision to come here. Had her mom ever woken up without any memory of a few days while she had studied here? Bree will never know, and even if she could, her mom would never tell her; she always hated talking about Carolina.
She felt electric sparks on her cheeks, like warmth buzzing across her face and noticed the shadows swirling in the other side of the room, shiny blackness standing out on a moonless night. Sel.
Suddenly the door opened and Nick walked in, still clad in the uniform she had seen a few days ago, or had it been yesterday? Albeit now it was torn and completely burnt at some places. A few moments later Sel materialised inside the room, pale flesh replacing the shadows, his yellow eyes flaming bright among the black fog which followed him everywhere.
They both inspected her condition; Nick’s eyes followed all the white cloth wrappings in her body with concern and Sel’s piercing stare bored into the back of her eyes. She knew them and also did not. Refusing to break under their watch, she stared hard right back. Brave Bree. She still had to be brave.
Nick was her peer mentor. Sel was the guy she met at the Quarry on her first day at Carolina. That much she knew. Nick seemed like a nice guy. Sel looked…unearthly. They both were complete opposites, warm golden contrasting with dense black. Kindness and scepticism. Oil and water.
Words pushed against her head with their presence. Words she had never heard of, words she couldn’t understand. And then, they burst. Red. So many words everywhere, memories and imagination, truth and the lies, reality and magic; strained against her forehead until she fell asleep.
Bree wakes up with blood on her lips. Again.
The pain is aggravating, the cut deeper than the one she bit down last time it happened. It brings back all the memories and the truth which Sel had tried to cover up. He still hasn’t found out that she can break his Mesmer. He had tried to wipe out her memories again. A while ago her mind was grappling with two realities; two memories and two truths but now she could see it as clear as the day – magic. Red and fiery flowing through her veins. What could it mean? Being able to resist his Mesmer? What is she?
“What are you?” Sel snarls at her from the other side of the room, his words slightly swaying. Aether drunk, Nick had mumbled when they had walked out to get some fresh air a few hours ago. The question chills her bones, she’s been wondering about it too but Sel does not know about what she can do.
“Sel, stop, you need to recover from the attack. You’ve used too much Aether today.” Nick straightens up from the wall and walks forward.
“Is that an order, Nicholas?” He tilts his head up to him, focusing fully on him, his eyes demanding. Nick snorts.
“Just stop questioning her and try to calm down.”
Bree doesn’t understand it. She doesn’t understand anything. Aether, Merlin, Legendborn, Kingsmage, Shadowborn.The words pressing against her head yet again; hot and burning, along with her twice bitten tongue, the exhaustion of last week and finding out about all this…magic? She wants to pass out again.
Nick’s torn. On one hand, there’s a paranoid Aether-drunk Sel to handle and there’s also a wounded and innocent Bree. He takes in a breath. He met Bree only a few days ago and she has already found her way into their lives and at this point is entangled with it. Sel thinks she’s here to kill him and is hell-bent on exposing her, the worst part is that Sel could be right – he’s their Kingsmage, their protector, the boy he grew up with. He whistles out the air.
“Look, Bree’s still healing and she’s probably traumatised, confused and scared. Let’s-”
“I know she can resist my Mesmer. I’m not as stupid as you think, my liege.” Sel clicks his tongue.
Nick’s eyes go wide, reflecting the yellow burning ones of Sel. Sel is mad and it’s never nice when he’s mad. He pulls out trees from the ground when he’s mad.
“You’re not taking her anywhere, not doing anything.” Nick might not know Bree well, but their Dean had assigned him to her and he still had the responsibility of her well being. Of course, that’s academic responsibility mainly but what’s academic excellence when social and physical well-being are neglected? He has to keep her safe. Or so he told himself.
“Shut up, I don’t plan to. But listen, do you know what she is? How she can do all that? How she can see Aether? How she ran into you and me and Evan and Tor in a week?”
“She’s…human. And about what she can do, we can figure it out. Nicely. Trust me on this.”
“Trust you?” Sel scoffs. “You’ve been dormant for years, you couldn’t sense a Shadowborn even if it’s right in front of you! I’m the Kingsmage and I think she’s a threat.”
There’s that word again. Threat, Shadowborn, Demon, Dangerous. Every time Bree hears it from Sel, he spits it out.
“And I think you need to chill for a while. Go out and uproot trees or something. Not an order, but please.” Sel looks slightly surprised and then smirks and falls back into the shadows, fading into the darkness of the night again without a word.
Nick walks into her frame. The smiling, energetic, smart golden boy she first met last week turned into a jaded, sleep-deprived Legendborn guy with a fancy sword. She doesn’t know what’s Legendborn, doesn’t know what’s a Kingsmage but she’s been revolving around them and has found herself sucked into some mediaeval secret society before she has even enrolled into any of the actual clubs of her college.
The anxiety of discovering the existence of magic, of Aether – the silvery-white substance she sees minutes before something goes wrong, of the dangerous demon creatures called Hellhounds; and also of the powerful boy who thinks she is one of the said Hellhounds has replaced the anxiety she felt of studying in the college her mom once was in. A place where she could unearth her mom’s old memories, the place her mom warned her not to go to.
“Are you alright?” Nick asks her. “I’m sorry about Sel, just ignore him. Are you still hurt anywhere?”
“I’m fine, just a bit sore. What about you?” She inspects the dried blood along his waist and then at the damaged sword lying on the side of the room.
He smiles, “The hellhounds weren’t after me, Bree. And I didn’t run straight into them either.” Nick lets out a dry laugh. “And since when were you worried about me?”
“You’re the only person in this place who doesn’t want to get rid of me or kill me, I guess that should count for something” she replies, looking at the space where Sel just disappeared to.
“Sel… means it well, trust me. He’s just having it hard right now. There’s been a lot of attacks lately.”
“Do you trust him? And why are there so many attacks?” she asks. She wouldn’t worry if he trusted him but the interactions they both had so far haven’t been completely cordial to hint at that.
“Yes, I do, I grew up with him. I’ll explain it to you, the attacks too. But just know that Sel would never intentionally hurt me or go against me. Now tell me, how did you do what you did?”
“What did I do?”
“Break Sel’s Mesmer, among other things. No one can do that. See Aether. I can’t even do that.”
“I don’t know.”
“She’s lying.” Sel materialises inside the room again.
Nick deflates and grits his teeth in annoyance. “Why are you back?”
“Oh, I’m sorry if I was interrupting something. Please go on, by all means, just wanted to let you sweethearts know that I can sense another hellhound around but aw it’s fine, you can continue getting to know each other.” Sel inspects his black-painted nails, standing as calm as the trees outside. “Perhaps, I’ll have some time to reapply my eyeliner before-”
“How close is it?” Nick interrupts him.
“I’m not sure. But we have to get you to safety first so let’s go, get on my back or something.”
“W-what?” It doesn’t seem like Nick’s the stuttering type but he looks caught very off guard.
“It won’t be that bad, you won’t feel a thing and I’ll reach our Lodge before you can even blink.”
Nick straightens up. “You have to carry both of us then.”
Sel whistles. “Sure, my liege.”
In the quiet and awkward minutes that follow, Bree manages to find her way into Sel’s arms, looking at Nick perched upon his back with a horrified expression she doubts even a Hellhound could bring to his face, he looks speechless.
The whole situation is so…weird and unusual and awkward. No one dares to speak a word. She knows that Sel is powerful, but carrying two grown people effortlessly and running with them? Yeah, well, he is also strong.
“Are you comfortable up there, Nicholas?”
“Shut up, Selwyn.”
“You better hold on tight spider monkey.”
Bree’s eyes widen at the reference and before she can laugh Sel takes off into the night. Moving smoothly against the cold wind, dodging trees effortlessly, silent and in sync with the quiet forest. Sel’s footsteps barely make any sound and he runs for about three minutes until Nick shouts to stop.
“I think I saw something between those trees.”
Sel rolls his eyes. “And I thought I was the paranoid one. How can you even see in this darkness while sitting there? We gotta get to the Lodge soon and you’re stalling us.”
“No, look. I saw a thing moving along with us. Check around, use your spidey senses or something.”
“You don’t keep up with pop culture, do you?” Sel sighs. “Nick, you can’t sense or see Aether. It was probably some bird.”
A moment later, a silvery mass knocks them down.
Bree’s ankle burns, a drop of Aether falling on her legs feels like metal melting into her skin. She sees bursts of silver, blue and golden sparks around her; the moonless sky now turning into a freak show of flaming fireworks.
She crawls away aimlessly, her ears ringing with shouts and sizzles. The hellhound. She lets herself fall against a tree, trying to focus on what’s going on and ignoring the Aether seeping into her body.
Nick and Sel stand back to back, broken sword and blue flames in their hands, waiting for the next attack from the hellhound which Bree comes to realize is in the form of a panther. Silver lines on black skin. She doesn’t know how dangerous or powerful it is, but against the backdrop of the lightless sky, it looks ethereal. It pounces on them and Sel uses his icy blue flame to fight it off but the more Sel brings out his flame, the stronger the panther seems to get.
Nick tries to get around it, dodging both their attacks but he ends up standing around them helplessly. Sel doesn’t stop, he keeps throwing his flame at the panther from different directions. The panther glows more and more, its aura fluctuating and Sel’s power seems to be draining too. Teeth baring and skin steaming up it pounces on top of Sel one more time. Bree gasps, Sel is pressed onto the ground and caged by the panther. She looks at Nick and he seems just as lost and confused as her.
“Would you care to help me a bit here, my liege?” Sel yells from underneath the hellhound.
Nick swings, plunging the blade onto the back of the panther. It splashes inside its body, silver smoke spilling out as it comes to a standstill. Then it evaporates, everything turning into droplets of Aether, like ashes flying away.
Yet another attack, another hellhound, another threat – after her arrival here. Bree’s head hurt, is she being gaslighted by Sel or is she indeed something dangerous? She had forced Nick into this mess, ignoring his resistance and now look at where it got him; standing frozen holding a broken, Aether dripping sword and gazing horridly at the space the hellhound disappeared to. Maybe he brought her here. Or he was probably already in the mess. Maybe it was Sel. Or even her mom.
She doesn’t notice Sel until he stands right in front of her, his eyes still shining but the light dimmer now, exhausted. He glances at her legs and she does not stop or question him when he puts his palm on her forehead, “I’m sorry”
And this time she doesn’t bite her tongue as she passes out for the third time.